Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
INTERVIEWS / MAR. 10, 2014
version 3, draft 3

How to Prepare for Interview Questions: The 20 Method

You can prepare cleverly for an interview. So cleverly, that you might as well have been given the questions before the interview to practice answering in your own sweet time.

This is how. By following a technique my friend taught me called the "20 question method" and it is, quite simply the best way to prepare.

It is almost embarrassing in terms of how easy and simple it is, yet it really works well in terms of interview preparation.

You do this

Read through your job description and person specification and write down 20 questions that come to you on a sheet of paper - no matter how silly. Don't think about it too much, just write them down.


For each of your questions, jot down three bullet points that you can use to answer each question. Important, make sure these refer to specific examples.

And then

Practice answering the questions you have set yourself (without looking at your bullet points). It's effective, even if you just do this in your own head. As long as your brain is going through the "fetch and retrieve" information process that you need to do in the interview, then you are doing it right.

Imagine you are interviewing you, what would you want to know?


Here is an example of the questions that I guessed for myself when preparing for a recent interview as a Learning Technologist.

  • 1. Why are you applying for this job?

    Interested in Learning Technology (give examples)
    Experience in Learning Technology work (demonstrate)
    Previously been involved in community IT work (old job, remember details)
  • 2. Name a new tool that you have discovered and why you like it

    Duolingo (multi-media, interactive and easy to use)
    Twitter for learning (just brilliant, hash tags etc)
    Polls (good for interactive learning)
  • 3. What software programmes can you use and how well?

    Dreamweaver (talk about community website)
    MS Office (advanced databases ECDL)
    Camtasia (explain video tutorial
  • 4. Explain how you have worked in a team and what role you played

    Working with careers advisers on project (explain how)
    Working with IT advisers on web work (specifically with marketing project)
    Played the role of IT person
  • 5. How do you manage your time?

    Outlook calendar (and set reminders)
    Diary (traditional)
    Planning (one page project planner, for example)
  • 6. What barriers can you imagine in the role?

    Working across departments with different needs
    Different IT skill levels
    Changing and adapting IT products
  • 7. What do you like best in your job?

    Working as part of a team
    Student interaction
    Achieving goals (such as, ________)
  • 8. Have you an example of a difficult situation that you handled well?

    Dealing with project disharmony (such as, _______)
    Previously, starting up a new community training project
    Dealing with an unhappy client (explain situation)
  • 9. How do you make sure you keep learning?

Reading and blogging (talk about blog)
Taking Postgrad study (talk about VLE)
Following professionals on social media

  • 10. Where would you like to be in 5 years’ time?

    I hate this question! What do they want me to say? I want to be in your job (showing ambition, or freaking them out). I want to be working for IBM (ie, not you!) I want to have a set of triplets (ie, watch me run for maternity leave). I want this job and to be still doing it in five years’ time (ie, showing loyalty or looking like a career tortoise?). Tricky one! Try Google for better answers. Luckily, this one didn't come up.

That's enough to give you the general idea. I didn't get asked ALL of the questions above, but I did get asked a spookily fair number of the ones that I had jotted down.

Read through your job description and role first before you do your twenty questions. If you don't have one to hand, search for "administrator job specification or description," for example. A lot of job descriptions are very similar in essence.

Question about questions

I was later asked, "is there anything you would like to tell us that you haven't had the opportunity to tell us so far?"

Try not to say no. If you can't think of anything, then, "I think we have covered everything. You have been really thorough" (with a big smile) will do nicely.

It can be a good opportunity to shine! You can mention here anything cool you have done that was on your application form that hasn't yet come up during the interview. I talked about a voluntary referral website I had made for a charity called Community Referrals.

Grand Finale

Don't forget a question for your interviewers. In case nothing naturally comes to mind at the time, have a pre-prepared question ready. The panel will nearly always ask you if you have any questions. Unless the interview has been REALLY long and you have clearly covered everything.

A fail proof way to pre-prepare for good questions is to read around the employers market, search for the employer online for related news and read any future vision or policy document if they have openly shared documents available on the company website.

Good questions

A few good interviewer questions include:

  • How do you see the department responding to (and relate to a recent event that would be relevant to the company or organisation)?
  • How did the company begin? (Good one for small companies as it shows genuine interest. Director's will enjoy telling the tale of their success.)
  • I read that the company will be doing (relate to new thing), will that be something I could get involved in my role in future?

Try not to ask any questions such as, how much leave will I get, when do I get a pay rise, can I bring my puppy to work? You can ask HR once you've been offered the post.


Good luck

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